“This resource teaches children safety through a few different methods, including a hands-on simulated entanglement scenario,” says Raelyn Peterson, farm safety youth coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“It has three educational components that provide an excellent overview of the importance of safety around PTOs - an entanglement demonstration, a reaction time activity, and discussion points for conversations about potential risks and safety precautions. The display is designed to provide children and youth with useful knowledge to help keep them safe on the farm.”

The dangers of PTOs

A PTO is a method commonly used on the farm to transfer power through a rotating shaft on a tractor to another implement such as an auger, baler, or mower. Contact with a PTO due to incorrect or careless use can cause serious injury or death.

A PTO shaft rotates at very high speeds, making either 540 or 1000 revolutions per minute (RPM), depending on the type of power produced. Most PTO incidents happen when people get too close to the rotating shaft, especially if shields or guards have been removed, altered or damaged. Typical injuries involving PTOs include amputations, severe cuts, multiple breaks, or spine and neck injuries.

“It is physically impossible for a person to react fast enough to avoid injury or death from contact with a rotating PTO,” says Peterson. “With an average reaction time of less than a second, a person caught in a PTO spinning at 1000 RPM would be wrapped around the PTO shaft six times before they knew what was happening.”

To decrease the likelihood of injury or death caused by a PTO, Peterson encourages that farmers implement the following safety strategies:

  • Wear close fitting clothes, remove draw strings from sweatshirts and jackets and tie up long hair. These items can easily become entangled in a rotating PTO shaft.
  • Make sure all guards and shields are securely in place and in good working condition at all times.
  • Keep young children a safe distance away from a spinning PTO. Designate a safe play area with structured boundaries (i.e. fence) to eliminate risks.
  • Ensure workers engage and disengage the PTO from the tractor seat only. Do not reach up to engage the PTO while standing behind or beside the tractor.
  • Under no circumstances should anyone step over a PTO. Always walk around.
  • Anyone operating a PTO should receive proper training. A training activity provides information and instruction to improve performance or help achieve a certain level of skill and knowledge to safely operate a PTO.

“Diligent management and safe operating practices can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death caused by a PTO. It is important to take these precautions not only for your own safety but also the health and safety of your family,” she adds.

The PTO display is one of many educational resources, displays and publications available free of charge from the Alberta Farm Safety Program.


To connect with the Farm Safety Program to check availability, make an inquiry or review the PTO lesson plans:

Email: farm.safety@gov.ab.ca